This is my second article for the Garden Share Collective and it starts with the first day back at school following the long summer break.
Back to school:
Wednesday the 4th September saw the start of the new academic year and almost before I’d stepped onto the playground with the Mudlets, I was being asked when would Gardening Club be starting again. The children were keen to get back out into the garden and see how their plants had been doing over the long break.
“Next Week,” was my answer, as this would give them a few days to get back into the swing of school.
As we were supposedly entering the colder months of Autumn, I had drawn up a list of essential jobs to do to prepare the beds for next season but as it has turned out, Ma Nature appears to be trying to make up for the late start to spring and we find ourselves with lovely warm weather which, in turn, means that many plants I would have expected to have started to die back by now, are still going strong.
So with this in mind, I wonder how many of the jobs to do I listed in my last Garden Share Collective blog, have we actually been able to complete.
1) Continuing to harvest produce as it becomes available.
We’ve certainly been able to accomplish this particular task. Once or twice a week, we have picked, pulled or cut: Cabbages, cauliflowers, kale, spinach, runner beans, pole beans, salad and cherry tomatoes; cucumbers and apples. Some of these have gone to the kitchen but the tomatoes, cucumbers and apples have gone into the classes for snack time.
2) Feeding the plants that are still producing.
With so many plants still happily growing and supplying us with a bountiful supply of produce, the soil in which they are sitting was definitely starting to get a little tired and was in need of some enrichment to support the extended growing season. So the application of liquid seaweed feeds, top dressing beds and tubs with compost and judicious use of tomato feed, have all been tasks carried out this month.
3) Clearing away depleted plants and composting them.
We do this as a matter of course anyway, as the foliage of depleted plants can provide handy hiding places for the likes of slugs and snails. All our garden waste goes into the composting bin and will, in time, go back onto the beds.
4) Collecting and storing the bean and pea seeds.
Several of the the pods from the purple podded peas have already been collected and there are several of the runner and pole bean pods that have been left to mature on the plants and these will be collected once they have dried out. These will then be placed into envelopes and stored in a cool dry place over the winter.
One of the draw backs of the prolonged weather has been the continued attempts of the weeds to dominate our growing space. Weeding is perhaps one of the least favourite jobs of the children but they understand how important it is and tackle the task with determination. With their help, we’re managing to keep the weeds firmly in their place and the children know that the weeding is spread out over the three gardening groups, so everyone has to do it and sometimes it almost becomes a competition to see which group clears the most away in a week.
6) Clearing and cleaning out the shed and polytunnel ready for winter.
These are two of the jobs that we will be carrying forward to this month as we are still picking the tomatoes and cucumbers growing in the polytunnel and with tools and equipment still being used, the shed hasn’t had its’ clean out as yet. Weeding the polytunnel will be a major job, as the staging will have to come out to get to those growing up and under the edge of the plastic sheeting.
Along side the path inside the tunnel, we have a rogue vegetable growing ….. a member of the Brassica family, although we don’t know which one as yet. Obviously a seed got dropped and has been happily growing near the door. It has endured caterpillar attack and some of the leaves nearest to the path are looking a little down trodden – literally – but it is still growing and it won’t be long before we find out exactly what type it is. All we can say for sure is that it isn’t kale or Kohl Rabi.
7) Digging organic soil enhancers into the beds.
Another of the jobs to carry forward, as with the beds still full, or partly full, we can’t put the enhancers into them yet but this is a job which will be done as each bed is cleared.
8) Cleaning the pots and propagators and storing them neatly.
Another job that needs to be organised for later this month, depending on the weather. Cleaning the pots, tubs and propagators, not forgetting the trowels, forks and spades etc, is an essential component in the battle against pests and diseases and one which the children took part in last year.
What else have we been harvesting?
As well as those items already listed above, the children have also pulled the last of the normal carrots and a few more of the beetroots, both of which also went to the kitchen. The two pumpkins have both now been removed from their vines and are on display int he school, along with two small winter squashes. All the children in the school were excited to see the pumpkins both of which, together with the squashes, will form the center piece of the Harvest Festival in a couple of weeks.
The potatoes are finally starting to die back and in a week or so we will be lifting the plants to see if we have been successful in our potato growing this year. The potatoes went in late, due to the cold weather but we should be able to get at least a small harvest.
Jobs for this month
This month the main jobs will be the maintenance and preparation ones that we didn’t get done last time and so these are:
- Clearing and cleaning out the shed and polytunnel ready for winter;
- Digging organic soil enhancers into the beds; and
- Cleaning the pots and propagators and storing them neatly.
However, some of the jobs completed from the previous list are actually ongoing and so added to those listed above are:
- Continuing to harvest produce as it becomes available;
- Clearing away depleted plants and composting them;
- Collecting and storing the bean and pea seeds; and
There is, however, one other job that we can hopefully start this month and about which I am quite excited and that is the development of a raised growing area in the Foundation and Year 1 play area, courtesy of grant we have just found out we have been awarded.
The planned space isn’t going to be on a grand scale, comprising as it will, of just two raised trough/trug planters (1m length by 0.78m width and 1.8m length by 0.78m width) but this is a start to giving the younger children their own growing space, getting them interested young so that they may want to carry on growing as they progress through the school.
The grant covers the cost of the planters, trellis, a greenhouse cover, fleece cover and micromesh cover for each trug, the compost/topsoil for each, aprons, gloves and a storage box. It also covers the cost of coating the trugs with a water based protective stain before use to help prolong the life of the trugs!
I guess that’s it for this article but please go visit the other blogs in the collective, each of whom has their own personal knowledge and experience to share.